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The year-long program equips a cohort of 20 next generation leaders with the understanding of world affairs and leadership skills needed to succeed and shape the future of our city in a globalized world.

Ideal Emerging Leader candidates are highly accomplished in their careers and expected to rise to the top of their fields in the private, nonprofit, and public sectors within the next five to ten years. The Council intentionally seeks exceptional leaders who reflect the rich diversity of Chicago.

Apply now to join the Emerging Leaders Class of 2023

The application process is open from November 15, 2021, to March 14, 2022.

Selection Process

Characteristics of Ideal Candidates:

  • Passion and Drive: Candidates are highly accomplished in their careers and expected to rise to the top of their fields in the next 10 years.
  • Interest in global affairs: Candidates demonstrate a strong professional or personal interest in global issues, trends, and events.
  • Diverse experiences and perspectives: The selected cohort is diverse not only in personal and professional backgrounds but also in ideological and intellectual perspectives.
  • Community Engagement: Candidates are active in their communities and committed to working on solutions that will have a positive impact on Chicago’s role as a global city. 
  • Active Participant: Each month, participants meet on the first Friday (2 to 5 pm CT) and third Wednesday (5 to 8 pm CT) and participate in a Council program of their choice, in addition to other mandatory meetings. Employers must be supportive of the time commitment.
  • Committed: Participants are required to devote additional time to complete an end-of-year project that includes a short policy memo and a persuasive flash talk on a key issue within the Emerging Leaders curriculum. Design and execution support will be provided.
  • Invested in the program: Candidates and their organizations share the costs of participating in the program with the Council. See FAQs below.
  • Invested in the Council: Emerging Leaders continue their engagement with the Council and maintain active participation at the President’s Club level after they complete the program.
  • Between 30-42 Years Old: Candidates must be at least 30 and no older than 42 on June 30, 2022.
  • All candidates must submit a completed candidate information form, three essays, and two letters of reference to be considered. All materials must be submitted by the deadline.
  • Reference letters should be completed by those who can speak to the candidate’s qualifications for the program.
  • Applications will be evaluated by the Emerging Leaders selection committee composed of Council leadership members, Emerging Leader alumni, and Emerging Leaders program staff.
  • Candidates selected for interviews will be notified in mid-April, 2022. Interviews will take place the week of April 18.
  • In the first stage of the selection process, written applications will be reviewed by the Emerging Leaders selection committee to choose candidates to advance to the interview round.
  • Candidates selected for interviews will be contacted to confirm the participation fee, employer sponsorship, and candidate commitments to full participation in all program activities.
  • Interviews will be conducted by a sub-group of the Emerging Leaders selection committee at the offices of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and last 20-30 minutes.
  • Candidates are notified about decisions in late May, 2022.
  • If selected, each participant is required to submit a statement agreeing to meet the expectations of the Emerging Leaders Program, including full participation at meetings, programs, and events; outreach to their network on behalf of the Council; and ongoing engagement and Council membership after the program year.
  • Candidates and their organizations will work with the Council to determine how the participation fee will be covered. See frequently asked questions below about the financial commitment.

Financial Commitment FAQ

The Council is committed to investing in globally minded leaders in the Chicagoland area, as demonstrated by its investment in the program since 2008.

For the Class of 2023, the participation fee is $15,000 for corporate sector participants, $10,000 for entrepreneurs and those who work for small businesses with annual operating budgets of $5 million, and $5,000 for academic, non-profit, and public sector participants. Additionally, each Emerging Leader must make an individual $500 contribution.

Emerging Leaders are expected to cover some meals and their flight for two days of meetings in Washington, DC in October. Additionally, Emerging Leaders individually continue their engagement with the Council and maintain active membership at the President's Club level after the completion of their program year.

Participation fees are determined by the sector that you primarily work in. 

Payment of participation fee is due before September 2, 2022 and is non-refundable and non-transferable. Installment payments may be available, with full payment of participation fees due by December 16, 2022.

Once you have been selected to the program you can work with the Emerging Leaders Program staff to arrange for installment payments of your participation fee if needed.

Yes. Payments of participation fees by a third party (not the individual or their employer) are considered charitable donations and tax-deductible as allowed by law. Please note that places in the Emerging Leaders class are non-transferable.

Do you want to articulate the benefits of the EL program to your organization's decisionmakers? Download a sample letter to request their support.


A very limited number of scholarships are available thanks to generous donors to the Emerging Leaders program. These scholarships support candidates who do not work in the private sector and who would not be able to participate in the program due to financial needs. Please direct any inquiries to Jennifer Petersen at

All Emerging Leaders candidates are chosen based on the candidate criteria. The expectation is that the participation fee will be paid either by the candidate’s employer or by the candidate. Limited scholarship support is available to a small number of candidates. Regardless of scholarship support, candidates must make an individual financial contribution of $500 in addition to their participation fee.

Program Experience

Learn more about what an Emerging Leader experiences during the year-long program. 

  • ELs meet twice a month October through June. These sessions consist of presentations by subject matter experts, skill building workshops, and participatory learning activities.
  • ELs meet with key figures in Washington, DC to gain a behind-the-scenes look at the foreign policy formulation process in our nation's capital.
  • ELs attend small gatherings hosted by a Council Board member and a dinner with a Council speaker, among other exclusive invitations.
  • Orientation: Evening of July 20, 2022 
  • Retreat: September 9-10, 2022 
  • Washington, DC Meetings Briefing: TBC. Will confirm by May 2022.
  • Washington, DC Meetings: TBC. Will confirm by May 2022.
  • Every third Wednesday of each month, 5-8 pm CT, beginning October 19 (2022 dates: 10/19 and 11/16; 2023 dates: 1/18, 2/15, 3/15, 4/19, 5/17, and 6/21)
  • Every first Friday of each month, 2-5 pm CT, beginning November 4 (2022 dates: 11/4 and 12/2; 2023 dates: 1/6, 2/3, 3/3, 4/7, 5/5, and 6/2)

Emerging Leaders Program Contact

Jennifer Petersen

Assistant Director, Next Generation